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The South doesn’t do snow.

Bob and I were supposed to be Grandparenting this morning, but the temperature plummeted and ice is supposed to turn into snow, so the Grands are home from school with the Groom. He is a great Dad and told us he can work from home; also pancakes are his specialty!

And in light of the racist slurs that came from Mr T yesterday, I made Bob sit down on the couch this morning and put Netflix on his iPad. I heard that President Obama was going to be David Letterman’s first guest on his new gig, “My Next Guest” https://www.netflix.com/title/80209096

Cue the bluebirds. We laughed, we even teared up a little, as we listened to Obama talk about bringing his oldest to college. They were having fun with each other and when Letterman told him he really respected Obama – as a man – and embraced him, I felt so much longing for those days. For a President that could make me dream again.

So it was a bittersweet interview, because I miss that man, and nobody mentioned Mr T at ALL. Which was refreshing, but in his absence, in his void, lies uncertainty. Like children of alcoholic parents, we the American people never know what to expect from his mouth or his Twitter fingers. We were getting so close to a deal on DACA yesterday, that I have to think Mr T’s racist remarks were calculated for his base. Just another bright shiny object to deflect the press. We already knew he was a bigoted nationalist, now I wonder if this president is either terribly sinister, stupid, or suffering from Alzheimer’s. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/12/trump-denies-he-called-countries-s–holes-rejects-senators-daca-deal.html

I did not, will not and could not watch Mr T sign a proclamation for Martin Luther King Day earlier. Instead, to commemorate Dr King’s life, I hauled myself out to the outskirts of  Davidson County and registered myself to vote in TN. And I have an idea about what to do on Monday. I will print off voter registration forms and leave them at our local coffee shop.

I recently left a book there with a post-it that said, “Free book from your local Book Fairy.” In Ireland they have a Book Fairy group that does this all the time, and you’re supposed to try and do it without being caught. Yesterday I noticed someone had left another free book in their window. It felt so good to know a mitzvah was being paid forward.

It should not be so hard to vote in this democracy. That bears repeating, “IT SHOULD NOT BE SO HARD TO VOTE IN THE USA!!” President Obama talked about strengthening the habits of the heart; the more we help others, extend our hands and really connect with others, the more we advance our democracy and our own humanity.

My Nana had a saying, “When you throw your toast out on the water, it comes back with jelly on it.”

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Yesterday, I was listening to an NPR On Point interview with Ann Patchett about her essay in the NYT – she had decided to spend 2017 as her year of “No Shopping.” Her friend, Elissa Kim, inspired her to give up shopping for frivolous things. Kim had returned to the US after a trip to India and felt, “…obscenely rich.” She was shocked by our sheer abundance compared to the street people she met on her journey; so, Kim gave up shopping for a year. https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510053/on-point-with-tom-ashbrook

The rules were simple: No clothes; No shoes: No bags; No jewelry

WHAT?! What if your winter clothes, shoes, bags and jewelry were all in a Pod stacked somewhere in a warehouse? What if you had to buy holiday presents? Patchett said this didn’t apply to food, which is good since I’d seen her a few times at Whole Foods, and even though we’d met at her store, Parnassus, and I’d sat in front of her at the Love Bug’s Grandparent Turkey Day, I never imposed myself on her celebrity.

Living in Rumson taught me one thing, you may get introduced to the Boss at the gym, but you never fawn over him.

Still, after reading ALL of Patchett’s books, and knowing her husband is also a doctor, I felt a certain connection and found myself stuck to my Sonos on the Nashville NPR station. This year of living without shopping came about seamlessly. She said it had something to do with, “…the state of the country.” Oh I hear you girl. Also realizing that, “I had enough!” To which I would add, I am enough. And finally, she thought she’d been spending a little too much time, “…chilling out by browsing online.”       http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2018/01/02/author-ann-patchetts-year-of-no-shopping

There were so many questions I had after listening to this interview. How do I chill out?Why do we shop? As I’m typing, an email shoots into the right corner of my screen from Eileen Fisher, telling me about their new blue… Oh dear God. I ignore it. Then the doorbell rings, it’s an Amazon package…

But mostly, I am left wondering why people are so darn mean on social media?

I made the mistake of checking On Point’s Twitter feed to add my opinion to the mix, and there were all these nasty comments along the line of, “…it’s called poverty/what a bunch of pretentious, entitled/this is the worst etc.” A TED talk featuring a woman who saved $37,000 one year by not shopping seemed to really set the mob mentality over the edge.

Still, I listened to the subtext. What would happen to our economy if everyone just stopped shopping? And I heard the anger, the anguish of a certain part of society, the part that likes to pit US against THEM. They don’t just cling to their guns and their religion, they like to shop! They not only rejected the idea of doing without, they disparaged the “liberal elite” for trying to do so.

It left me wondering when Republicans became the party for the working class; of course I know it started with LBJ and the South, with that drum roll of racism that still underscores our gerrymandering. My Daddy Jim never finished grade school, worked his whole life and taught me to always root for the “little guy.” The Flapper always said, “Charity begins at home” because we were so poor. She idolized FDR! We came from the coal mining hills of Pennsylvania and always thought the GOP was out of touch, was the party of (and for) the rich. This latest tax scheme should enlighten us all.

Because a certain British rag couldn’t reach Patchett for a comment, they headlined their article about her abundance of lip balm, because at one point she thought she might have to buy some but found more in her coat pockets. My comment was about how Millennials are more interested in the Fashion Chain, ethically sourced materials, and so they love to shop vintage. I was actually trying to listen to the interview, not judge the panel.

I must admit I’m starting to like web browsing ever since we bought our mattresses online, and mea culpa, I’m guilty of standing in a Target aisle wondering how the heck I got there and what I wanted. And then there’s the problem with shoes…

Still who wouldn’t want to find more time and money by not craving that one (insert consumer product here) that will change your life forever? Maybe this will redeem me? Here is a picture of our adorable Cali cousins, little Frankie is in a red beret wearing a lilac bunny sweater that the Flapper knit for the Bride thirty some years ago. I’d call that “Sustainable Knitwear!”

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Yesterday I wore a political tee shirt to the gym. I rode the bike, did some free weights and band stretching, a couple of machines and topped it all off with a T’ai Chi class. I’d forget what I was wearing until someone would smile at me, say they agreed with me, or just outright ask me where I got my shirt! I have never in my life put a bumper sticker on my car, but I walked around all day with this emblazoned on my chest:

My dog is smarter than the President

And it felt great. I even tagged my friend’s store in Nashville, “Come, Sit, Stay,” on Instagram cause I like to give credit where credit is due! And to her credit, Ms Bean is adapting to her city environment. Even though she’s a senior dog, she is learning to walk on a leash, avoid aggressive, yappy dogs, and only bark at the mail carrier, Craig, who has the audacity to come up on our front porch and make a clanging noise, every single day except Sunday, right next to the door.

Yesterday I tried introducing Bean to Craig but she was having none of it. Was it his shorts? The big bag he was carrying? Or that can of pepper spray in his pocket? Her ruff was up and her growl was low.

Our President, however, has learned nothing over his 70+ years of life. He’s become a national embarrassment. Remember when I told you Mr T wanted to buy an NFL team back in the 80s? You may find this interesting: http://www.newsweek.com/trumps-nfl-fight-dates-back-failed-usfl-experiment-80s-jeff-pearlman-670843

“They (NFL team owners) just saw him as this scumbag huckster,” Pearlman told Newsweek. “He was this New York, fast-talking, kind of con-man.”

All this nonsense about disrespecting the flag. Since when are “we the people” not allowed to protest peacefully? I went to a few NFL games back in the 80s, and no players were standing at attention during the anthem. Well, I take that back. My brother Mike would point out to me that the Vikings always stood at attention, while the other teams sat, or talked or stretched.

You don’t take on football in this country, even if you are the President, a guy who holds a grudge. You don’t call anyone’s mom the word for a female dog.

You don’t address the United Nations like a 12 year old school boy, calling countries “losers” and Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man!” Kim Jong-un called his speech a  “dog’s bark.”

You don’t threaten Iran and North Korea via Twitter like some ancient neo-con.

Lately I’ve been wondering if we should still be searching for a beach house, or building a bunker.

And I wonder how Buddha would have dealt with our mail carrier Craig. No, I know what he would have done. He would bark a couple of times, and eventually figure out he wasn’t a threat to his territory. Buddha would get himself up, walk over to the door, and watch the whole transaction very carefully.

But dogs are smart like that. They know when to bark and who to bite.

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“What does feminism mean to you?” Maxine, a new friend questioned me. I had to stop and think, since it feels like such a natural element in my life, she might have well asked, “Why do you need to breathe?”

My rant began slowly and built up over time. But I had to start out with equal pay for equal work, a fundamental, major prerequisite for life here on earth. Luckily she agreed, but she is about ten years younger. I’ve noticed that some younger women take many of our rights for granted, they think the word “feminist” is alienating. They like to call themselves humanists.

Which is OK I guess. After all, they didn’t have to be married to get birth control from a paternalistic, male doctor. They didn’t see their friends mutilated from illegal abortions, and later be unable to bear children. They were never told not to consider college by a school counselor, instead apply to secretarial school. They were never shamed about their sex.

I fumbled into a bit of a Twitter tirade with a young feminist author recently. I try to avoid trolls at all costs, I believe in just blocking them at first sight. But I was reading Hunger by Roxanne Gay, so I started following her and she mentioned she was working on a group of stories about “difficult women.”  And I asked if “difficult women” are the same as “nasty women.”

“NO,” was her one word reply.

The problem was I didn’t see her reply until the next day and by that time a bunch of angry young “feminist” trolls had said some awful things about me in her feed. So I’m not some 12 year old girl who would have been crushed and possibly suicidal by the digital harassment. I responded to them… I said I was a 68 yr old feminist and truly didn’t know the difference and would they please explain. I went high.

Now one of the responders had mentioned “cis women,” and how fed up she was with them (me), so I was guessing this had to do with some Lesbian sexual thing, since Gay is gay and I was simply referencing Hillary’s “nasty women.” I remembered another instance of being shamed online, when a famous food blogger put my picture up and someone said I looked like a “man.”

Now that really hurt! But I blamed it on my pouffy hat at the Downton Abbey premier. IMG_0836

And if you haven’t heard Pink’s response to her daughter being told she looks like “…a boy with long hair,” listen to this: https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/8/27/16212862/pink-vma-2017-video-vanguard-acceptance-live-your-truth

Thank you very much Pink! It saddens me that some feminists with differing sexual preferences aren’t on the same page, because we all were once upon a time. Ms Gay deleted all those difficult/nasty/mean Tweets and then she blocked ME!

Fine. Her book became difficult for me to finish, and it wasn’t an easy start as she was gang raped at the age of twelve. But I didn’t block her, I’m giving her a chance to explain herself. After all, she doesn’t know I have a good Lesbian friend here in Nashville.

Now Ivanka is another story. She stood behind her dad in blocking the implementation of President Obama’s rule to address gender-based pay discrimination. (Remember that was my very first point to my new friend). The rule would have required businesses to collect data on pay discrepancies based on gender, ethnicity and race. Here is her explanation, in case you were wondering about her feminist cred.

“Ultimately, while I believe the intention was good and agree that pay transparency is important, the proposed policy would not yield the intended results. We look forward to continuing to work with EEOC, OMB, Congress and all relevant stakeholders on robust policies aimed at eliminating the gender wage gap.”

I wish we could all stop shaming each other. When I see snarky comments about FLOTUS wearing stilettos to a flood zone I get just as mad as I would have when anyone criticized Hillary’s hair or her clothes. I mean, come on…..

This is my high school graduation picture, 1966. I was a 17 year old budding feminist then, who didn’t wear stockings or makeup or tease her hair.

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My heart goes out to Sen John McCain, 80, who was recently diagnosed with an extremely aggressive brain cancer. His glioblastoma was found “incidentally” in medical parlance, in that doctors were removing a blood clot that was associated with this condition when they found the culprit. It’s the same kind of tumor that killed Sen Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden’s son, Beau.

It’s the same cancer that killed my Father.

My Father was a pharmacist in Scranton, PA. He had survived the Great Depression and was raising five children with the Flapper. At first, it was only headaches, but later he lost the use of his left arm. My sister Kay had to help him actually grind medication in a mortar at the back of the drug store while her younger brothers read comic books up front. Psychology was a relatively new field at the time; a psychiatrist told my parents that they should have another child because my Father had “lost the will to live.”

I am that sixth child and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for his glioblastoma. The Flapper always joked that I was the only child she had planned! My Father’s friend, an ophthalmologist, noticed his bulging retina and sent him back to the university hospital where they operated on his brain right before Christmas 1948. I was three months old. He died in April the next year, he was only 47. Our Year of Living Dangerously was just beginning.

Although I may not have agreed with Sen McCain’s policies over the years, I have always considered him a true patriot. And unlike many politicians, he didn’t couch his words in innuendo. He played it straight and tried to be fair and work across the aisle. His daughter, Meghan, Tweeted:

“It won’t surprise you to learn that in all this, the one of us who is most confident and calm is my father. He is the toughest person I know. The cruelest enemy could not break him. The aggressions of political life could not bend him. So he is meeting this challenge as he has every other. Cancer may afflict him in many ways: But it will not make him surrender. Nothing ever has.”

But this type of cancer is a very cruel enemy indeed. Survival rates are devastating – only 14 months average with 5-10% alive five years after the diagnosis. Will he choose to fight with chemotherapy and radiation, or will he choose to battle Mr T on the Senate floor? Looking at his recent statements to Sen Lindsay Graham, I think he may do both!

Something happens to us when we are reminded of our mortality, when time begins to shrink. Bob said after his cervical surgery, he had less patience with hospital shenanigans and employee’s misbehavior. Before surgery he may have forgiven a surgeon’s harassment in the OR, for example. After surgery, not so much.

McCain is a war hero, and he is already criticizing Mr T’s strategy, or lack thereof, in Syria and Afghanistan. But if you recall, that other Lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy, was instrumental in getting President Obama’s ACA passed while he was battling this same cancer. If John McCain were to bring both parties together to salvage healthcare in this country, his legacy would be outstanding. I wish him well on this battlefield.

And check out the Google Doodle today. It’s celebrating the 106th birthday of Marshall McLuhan, who coined the phrase, “The medium is the message.” He predicted the internet but I wonder what he would think of Twitter. It was a key factor in Mr T’s election, and has taken the place of greeting cards as our politicians send heartwarming thoughts to McCain in 140 “characters.”

I don’t know which brother’s arm is sticking out behind the Flapper, but this is one of the few pictures I have of my Father.    IMG_0991

 

 

 

 

 

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The latest This American Life podcast on NPR was all about summer camp. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/109/notes-on-camp

About those people who absolutely loved camp and still think of it as a highlight of their young lives; and those who either never went to camp, or hated it for one summer. I fall into the former category. I started attending Camp St Joseph (CSJ) for Girls in the Catskills when I was around 10 years old, for the whole summer, and made it all the way to Counselor-in-Training at 16.

Which means I was a glorified waitress, but it was my first real job, and I was ecstatic.

Of course I was homesick that first summer. I had been contemplating moving home with the Flapper, and she was a working single mom at the time. So if I wanted to make the move work, she and my older sister Kay insisted I go to camp. CSJ was run like a military base camp. A bugle woke you at dawn and points were deducted from your team if you were late for the flag raising, if your uniform was wrinkled, or if a nun couldn’t bounce a coin off your neatly made cot/bed. The rafters were open so evening temperatures plummeted – we slept in our sweaters and socks.

Did I forget to tell you that each cabin had a nun sleeping in it?

Or that we went to Mass. Every. Single. Morning.?

But this is the place where I came of age. Where we sang Ave Maria on our way through the woods to a secluded grotto with a statue of Mary. Where I played Sir Lancelot in the play because I was taller than the other girl with a voice. Where I learned to play basketball like a pro. I can still remember the smell of the basketball court’s wood floor. The stomping, the cheers from the crowd, the ice cold Pepsi bottle from a machine after all our games.

I think the Flapper was pleasantly surprised that I cried when it came time to leave camp that first summer. After all, there were no smart phones to keep in touch; in fact, the camp didn’t want us to contact our parents at all. Every now and then we’d have to sit down and write them a letter, but that was voluntary – hence the phrase, no news is good news! After my first letter pleading my case to return home, my Mother never heard from me again.

Separation is an essential part of human development. Who really wants their kids living in their basement forever? Every year, when it came time to sew my name tags on all my camp clothes (khaki shorts and white polo shirts), the process of mini-individuation would begin. Raised as an only child with my foster parents, I learned how to handle conflict. I was also free to ride horses, learn archery, and play a mean game of jacks on our cabin’s front porch!

Today parents can keep track of their kids at summer camp via social media. I hate to sound stodgy, but IMHO this is not a great idea. Instead of separating parent from child for the summer, and allowing your child to blossom, constant virtual contact can give rise to separation anxiety… for the parent. Why isn’t Johnny in the river rafting picture? Where are Jane’s bunkmates in the craft cabin photo?

If I remember correctly, there were certain things I’d rather NOT tell my parents. Today, privacy is a thing of the past, and we Boomers are to blame. Kids share every detail of their lives on so many sites I can hardly keep track. Which is why I find it particularly hard to believe that Donald Jr didn’t say anything at all to Donald Sr about the possibility of digging up some dirt on Hillary via Russia last summer…

Now I get that Don Jr was raised as an entitled, elitist prep school snob. And I get that he thought he could pretty much get away with anything he did because Daddy’s money and power would bail him out of trouble. But I can’t buy into the “rookie” mistake language, or that he was an “innocent” bystander in all things Russian.

I think the President’s son needs to ship out to summer camp now, yesterday! Get off Twitter, remain unplugged and take a canoe out on a lake somewhere far away from reporters. Because even if his meetings with Russians were pure, and not illegal, they were certainly not saintly.       IMG_0809

 

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“What should I write this morning?” I asked Bob. He mumbled something over coffee that sounded like, “I dunno thatsatourriff.” This is what happens when you talk with your mouth full, cause I’m pretty sure he actually said, “I don’t know that’s your gift.” Or gig, or whatever. So I said,

“I know, facelifts!”

Well, actually I don’t know much about facelifts except, that every celebrity of a certain age is starting to look the same. And when you go too far under the knife, or too often, you could start to look like a lion. Beware, that image you see in the mirror may no longer be you!

But I DO recognize that schoolyard bully who might tell a young girl her lips are too big, or her hair is dirty, or (pick a body part and insert a slur). Mr T has got a huuuge problem with smart women, like Mika Brzezinski, and fast, tiny fingers that tap out his stream of putrid consciousness almost every morning. This is horrifying to the civilized world but somehow continues to delight his followers. Leaders don’t do this, they don’t intimidate, harass and belittle others into compliance. They certainly don’t talk about women bleeding…

When I opened Twitter this morning, one of my favorite authors, Joyce Carol Oates, popped up with this:

“Face-lift? Who needs a face-lift? All of US badly in need of soul-lift.” 

Here are a few things we can do for our souls, instead of trying to dissect the Presidential Twitter feed – which is simply vindictive nonsense.

  1.  Do something good for our planet. Plant a tree, pick up garbage on your street, bring tote bags to the grocery store if you’re not already. Donate to an environmental agency like The Sierra Club, or pick a non-profit: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2006/03/guide-environmental-non-profits/  We only have THREE years to get right with the world, so what are you waiting for? http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/06/29/we-have-3-years-to-act-on-climate-change-before-its-too-late-s_a_23007680/
  2. Become someone your grandchildren will admire. Pick a cause (and not cyber-bullying, FLOTUS has that covered y’all) and throw your body and soul into it. Is gun violence driving you mad? Guns kill nearly 1,300 children each year in our country. Join “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America” and help them #disarmhate https://momsdemandaction.org. If you think women’s rights are human rights, see what your local Planned Parenthood is up to, that is if they are still open?
  3. Go Deep. Turn off all those devices and listen to the world. First of all, your inner peace is depending on you. Meditate, even if it’s just for ten minutes while you’re watering the garden. Did you know walking the dog could be a meditation? You don’t have to sit in a lotus position and chant things. Great Grandma Ada said she would have to get up and dust if she ever tried meditating. But once we make peace with ourselves, we have a ripple effect on the rest of our lives. Acceptance is a form of grace, and it doesn’t just happen on Sunday morning.

Wasn’t it Lady Gaga or the Dalai Lama who wrote about self-acceptance? Everybody has a body part they don’t like, and we women are notorious for being critical. Her nose is too long, her hands betray her age, if only I could just lose that last ten pounds…The Flapper didn’t like her freckled, ski jump nose. She told me she would rub lemon juice on her nose to try and bleach out the freckles. For me, I was a tomboy just as flat-chested as the Flapper, and there were some boys who liked to remind me of this fact.

Lucky for me, I never succumbed to the ridicule by placing sacks of saline in my chest.

Stay Woke people. Get out there and enjoy this glorious weather and remember you don’t need to eat and breathe politics. When I was young, we had one half hour at night to watch Walter Cronkite and complain about the news…as a family, around one TV set. Daddy Jim read the newspaper, you remember those, in peace and quiet. It wasn’t all consuming all the time. Mr T’s Tweets are bad for our collective health. Here’s the latest Dalai Lama’s Tweet:

“We experience happiness on a sensory level that is relatively short-lived. But lasting happiness is related to our state of mind.” 

Enjoying a frozen hot chocolate with cupcake bear can also be soul-lifting.

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